Looking for an interesting make ahead lunch option that’s nutritious, filling, and easy – and that isn’t a sandwich? Then this meal prep Mediterranean penne pasta salad is for you!
Hands up if you quickly get bored of having sandwiches for lunch?
I certainly do, but usually I have neither the time, ideas, or inclination to make anything fancier.
It’s enough to get a decent dinner on the table every day!
The fanciest I ever get is having leftovers from the night before for lunch. That feels like a real score!
Which is why I’m feeling pretty smug that I came up with this Mediterranean penne pasta salad.
I’m not usually the biggest fan of pasta salads, but I thought I’d try to make one that I would really like.
What usually puts me off pasta salads is the carb overload. There always seems to be far too much pasta to chew through compared to all the other bits.
So what this Mediterranean penne pasta salad has is LOADS of vegetables. Deliciously caramelised roasted vegetables, to be exact.
This pasta salad also has:
- a generous amount of tasty basil pesto
- a bit of crunch from toasted pine nuts
- a scattering of fresh mint (from our garden! It’s taking over, as mint tends to do, so we really need to eat plenty of it before the caterpillars do!)
- a sprinkle of feta cheese because, well, feta cheese… (you know I can’t help it)
I’ll admit it takes a bit of time to chop up all the veggies, but once you’ve done that it’s just a case of cooking the pasta and tossing everything together.
A perfect meal prep lunch!
Now for the best part…
This Mediterranean penne pasta salad keeps really well in the fridge for quite a few days. Which means it makes a perfect make-ahead lunch.
Meal prep is a big thing right now, and after making this I can see why. How smug do you feel when you reach inside the fridge and grab a healthy and delicious lunch that you’ve prepared yourself?
Very smug, if you’re me 😉
This pasta salad recipe makes 4 big portions, so you can make a meal for the whole family or lunch for yourself for almost a whole week.
What to serve with your pasta salad
This also makes a great dinner side dish. We sometimes have it with baked fish or roast chicken, but it would be just as good just by itself.
It’s also a great salad to take along to parties or BBQs. It’s super easy to prepare ahead, and doesn’t spoil or need to be kept warm.
Make it your own
You can include whatever veggies you happen to have, you can replace the pine nuts with another kind of nut (like walnuts or pecans), or just leave the nuts out altogether.
You can scatter with a different kind of cheese, or don’t scatter with cheese at all.
Special diet requirement? Use gluten free or whole wheat pasta, or pesto without cheese and egg-free pasta if you’re vegan.
I like to use penne pasta, but use a different kind of pasta if you like.
Adapt this Mediterranean penne pasta salad recipe all you wish to your family’s likes and dislikes!
I’m also not ashamed to admit that I usually use a good quality pre-made pesto for this recipe. In this case I don’t see the point in making extra work for myself!
Scroll down to below the recipe (top of post on desktop) to see the handy how-to video!
What kind of container should I use?
If I’m making this ahead for lunches during the week, I like to use glass meal prep containers like these ones. They’re good for fridge, oven, microwave, and freezer!
Some other pasta salads that you might enjoy:
This orzo salad with feta, asparagus and chickpeas is off-the-charts delicious. It also makes a great meal prep lunch option!
Another orzo salad – spinach, pesto and parmesan orzo salad. Makes a great side dish!
Mediterranean penne pasta salad (meal prep)
- 3 bell peppers chopped into small pieces (1 green, 1 yellow, 1 red if possible) Australia = capsicum
- 1 zucchini sliced (I then quarter each slice)
- 1 eggplant chopped into small cubes
- 7 ounces mushrooms chopped into small pieces (I used 4 medium brown mushrooms)
- 9 ounces cherry tomatoes halved
- olive oil for cooking
- 10.5 ounces penne pasta dried
- 2/3 cup pesto
- 4 tablespoons Greek yogurt optional – for a little creaminess!
For sprinkling (optional but highly recommended)
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts (buy pre-toasted, or lightly toast in a dry frying pan, shaking every now and again)
- crumbled feta cheese
- a little chopped fresh mint
Preheat the oven to 430F / 220C.
Line 2 to 3 large baking trays with baking paper and scatter all of the vegetables except the tomatoes over the baking trays in a single layer.
Drizzle with a little olive oil, then toss well with your hands. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and pepper, then roast for 15 minutes.
Add the tomatoes to the tray. Roast for another 15 to 20 minutes until slightly browned and caramelised.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package instructions (8 to 10 minutes).
Drain the pasta and tip it into a large bowl. Tip in the vegetables and stir through the pesto and yogurt (if using).
Sprinkle with the pine nuts, feta and mint just before serving.
I usually use a good quality supermarket pesto for quickness, but by all means make your own if you prefer.
I prefer penne for my pasta salad, but use another type if you like e.g. bow ties, casareccia.
How to toast your pine nuts
If you buy untoasted pine nuts, simply roast for a few minutes in a dry frying pan. Shake every now and again. Be careful to keep a close eye on them – they burn easily once they start to toast!
How to store this pasta salad
This pasta salad keeps really well in the fridge for a few days. Simply store covered in the fridge in the bowl you made it in.
Or if you prefer store it in separate glass lunch containers for grab-and-go make ahead lunches.
Scatter over your pine nuts, feta, and mint just before serving, or just before you leave the house if you're packing it for a work or school lunch.
Note on nutritional info
Please note that the nutritional info shown doesn’t include the feta cheese you may or may not sprinkle over the top of your pasta salad!
I highly recommend that you do include a little cheese for some tangy umami flavour, but you only really need a little bit.
I don’t measure an exact amount – I just crumble a little and sprinkle!
Note on number of people this pasta salad serves
Serves 3 – 4 as a lunch or 4 – 6 as a smaller side.